Friday, August 3, 2012

Instalments IV, V and VI

My oh my, what an absolute surprise - little old me starting a blog and not keeping up with it - I never would have guessed...

Before I get into what is happening, Dickens, we need to have a little chat.

DICKENS: Oh, hello future man. Nice to meet you, kind of. Where are your top hat, monocle and cummerbund? You don't even have an ostentatious ironic 18th Century wig. You look ridiculous.

ME:Erm, OK...  Nice to meet you too.  Lets get straight to business.  You're a busy man, you're Victorian, which means you need to be sexually repressed at least 3 times before lunchtime.

D: True, sir!  Speak your piece and be gone, so I can cover up my piano legs and then flagellate myself for enjoying the smell of cinnamon!

M: Well, this is a bit awkward.  You're a great writer, I'm not gonna deny you that.  Probably up there with Tom Clancy and Andy McNab, if I'm being honest.  But you've got a problem, Mr. D.  You're addicted to characters..

D: I beg your pardon? I am but addicted to the further alienation of the industrialised class, and austere red-brick architecture, you fool!

M:  You've got a problem, Mr. D. It started off innocently enough.  You introduced us to Esther, the narrator.  That's fair enough. What's a story without someone to tell it?  Soon after we had Richard and Ada, the love-struck couple.  Now we've got three. That's nice.  A resonable number of major characters for a novel, some would say.  Well, maybe just someone who reads Mills & Boone - another one or two wouldn't go astray...

So you give us John Jarndyce, the World's Nicest Man, living in the House With the Most Depressing Name Ever (Bleak House - duh).  Now we're getting somewhere.  An antagonist would be nice, however.  So you give us Mr. Tulkinghorn.  He's a lawyer, which is A Bad Thing.  And his name is a bit scary too...

We're doing pretty well, wouldn't you say?

D:  Absolutely!   A good start.

M: No, Mr. Dickens, a good end - most novelists would have introduced these characters over the course of the novel, they would have interacted, it would be easy to follow and we'd have some strife and a nice resolution.  But that's not fucking good enough for Mr-fancy-pants-Dickens, is it?

D: Get to the point, sir, or I shall challenge you to an anachronistic duel.  Bleak House does not have to many characters!

M: Dude, you're addicted to characters like most of suburban L.A is to meth.  You can't get enough.  Harold Skimpole sound familiar?  Boythorne? Lord and Lady Dedlock? Mr. Turveydrop?  Snagsby? Jo?  Mr. Guppy?  Krook? Jellyby? Miss Flite?  You want more?  The whole Coavinses family?  And I'm only about a FIFTH of the way into the book!

D:  What's wrong with a few extra characters?  It gives the book depth.

M: Um, maybe nothing, if you're writing the fucking BIBLE.  You need to admit you've got a problem.  It's the first step on the road to recovery.  Don't worry, we'll start off slow.  I'm not going to show you the movie Buried, for example - you'd have a panic attack.

D: Well, it wasn't really very nice to meet you after all.  Please return to the future with your stupid jeans and funny haircut.

M: Goodbye!

So, what happened?  firstly, the opium addict was dead, deceased, an ex-Dickensian character.  After this revelation came his inquest which I'm nearly certain is going to become in some way central to the plot, because it has been revisited in various mysterious ways since...

Elsewhere in grey-rainy-London-Land, We have some more chapters which, it is becoming increasingly clear, are typical of Dickens.  There are several more passages poking fun at high society, both Lady Dedlock and Mr. Turveydrop.  The latter is pretty hilarious, allowing his son to work himself to the bone because he needs endless cash to keep up his image, and practise his 'Deportment', which basically consists of swanning around London going to fancy restaurants and meeting toffs.  Sounds pretty much like my life, actually.  There's also a magnifying glass put to the wretched condition of the lowest rung of London society, in the character Jo.

Meanwhile, Richard is having an existential crisis - which must have been doubly-difficult considering he's about 75 years before Jean Paul Sartre made that cool.  No smoking a Gitane inside a Gauloise whilst wearing a black polo neck for you, Richard!  On a slightly serious note, it's actually interesting how universal themes have remained, especially considering the book is 150 years old!  Many of us, myself very much included, still find it very difficult to figure out their 'life's calling'.  Richard's choices are rather simplistic, between lawyer and doctor, but the ideas's the same.  The more things change, eh?

Esther's crush, Woodcourt, gets another brief mention.  They're so getting married it's not even funny.  They might as well just do it now and we can skip the next 800 pages...

There's a pretty suspenseful scene set in the street with the creepiest name ever:  Tom-All-Alone's.  Dunno why it creeps me out so much but it does.  Why is the mysterious posh woman talking to Jo and asking to see all the places the dead opium addict was associated with?  Is she some kind of pervert? 

These answers, and more, next time...

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